Verizon told to discontinue ads about 5G availability and speed claims

The ads implied wider coverage than is available, according to an investigation by one of the industry's self-regulating bodies.

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Corinne Reichert
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Verizon has been told to discontinue some of its TV ads about 5G availability and speed claims.

Angela Lang/CNET

Verizon has been told to stop using two TV ads that make claims about the speed and availability of its 5G network. The recommendation, made by the US National Advertising Division Wednesday, came after AT&T complained Verizon was being potentially misleading about how fast its 5G service is and where it's available.

On the availability of its networks, Verizon was recommended to stop making claims that 5G is "widely available in cities across the country" and "its service is broadly and readily accessible in cities where it has been launched," NAD recommended. NAD is a division of the Better Business Bureau that independently evaluates the truth and accuracy of national advertising. 

Verizon has launched its 5G network in 35 cities across the US -- but it's only available in certain parts of those cities. According to the NAD's findings, Verizon's 5G ads imply the network is available broadly across those 35 cities. "The challenged advertising does not convey a message that consumers will be able to access Verizon's 5G network in the specific locations its engineers are depicted to be standing," it said.

Read more: Verizon vs. AT&T vs. T-Mobile compared: How to pick the best 5G carrier for you

NAD also recommended that Verizon "discontinue claims implying that the speeds referenced in the commercials are typically experienced by consumers," it said. NAD pointed to ads where Verizon said people are getting "almost 2 gigs" in Los Angeles and 1.7Gbps in Houston.

NAD said Verizon's disclosure that its network is "only available in parts of select cities and locations" and "may vary and is not available exactly in all locations and venues depicted" was not clear and conspicuous enough on its TV ads.

"Even though Verizon does not agree with all aspects of NAD's decision, we remain committed to the self-regulatory process and will comply with NAD's recommendations," a spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "Verizon believes strongly in transparency of customer messaging." The TV ads in question stopped running months ago.

Read more: The best 5G phones of 2020

"We are pleased and agree with the decision," an AT&T spokesperson said in an emailed statement. T-Mobile said it "believes customers should know what they're getting when it comes to 5G."

It follows a similar challenge by Sprint back in the beginning of 2019 that AT&T's 5GE advertising was misleading. After an appeal, a panel of the National Advertising Review Board recommended in May 2020 that AT&T discontinue its "5G Evolution" and "5G Evolution, The First Step to 5G" claims.

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